BP to Pay $7.8 Billion to Settle Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Lawsuit -- Is the Company Getting Off Too Easy?
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AMY GOODMAN: The ads are running all over television, that BP is running, saying, you know, they’re giving $20 billion in compensation to victims with, quote, "legitimate claims" and $500 million to clean up the Gulf. I wanted to bring Professor Ian MacDonald into this conversation to talk about what it means to restore the Gulf and what it will take. In the wake of the Gulf disaster, BP pledged this $500 million over a decade to conduct independent scientific research on the fate of the oil and its environmental effects. Scientists say the program can also help ensure a more effective response to future oil spills. But the initiative has a major shortcoming, which is part of what Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University, is joining us to discuss. He is joining us from Tallahassee. Ian MacDonald, what does it take to clean up the Gulf?
IAN MacDONALD: Well, we should be clear that BP did not clean up the Gulf, and the government did not clean up the Gulf. The natural systems in the Gulf were what removed the oil that’s gone. And there is still oil present. It still has an effect. But it was Mother Nature that cleaned up the Gulf, not the agency of government or BP. The question is, how much damage was done, and how can we recover that damage? And I think that’s something that’s going to be the subject of this ongoing research.
The problem that we’re having right now is that when oil was gushing, there were literally hundreds of ships and dozens of submersibles in place, essentially one of the largest flotillas ever assembled, in place studying this disaster and trying to respond. Now, as we try to learn what happened and prepare ourselves for the next catastrophe, we have nothing like those kinds of resources present. So this is a major concern, and it’s a major limit on what we’re able to do.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the $500 million? What is it that you cannot do with that?
IAN MacDONALD: Well, the $500 million is—well, that $500 million is over 10 years. To date, they’ve awarded contracts for three years for a portion of that $500 million. It’s intended, with good intention, to research the fate and effect of the Macondo oil and to try to understand better how deepwater systems can be affected by massive releases of oil and how that oil is transported from the places where it escapes on to the coastline. So we’ll be studying that. I say "we." There are a number of consortia that have been formed, academic institutions around the Gulf, that will be studying that over the next three years, and probably over the next 10 years. But to do that work, we need to be out where the spill happened, out where the accident happened. And that’s in the deep ocean of the Gulf of Mexico. To get there, you need properly equipped oceanographic vessels, submersibles. You need a whole variety of equipment. All that equipment was present by BP’s—with BP’s support during the accident. Now that equipment has moved elsewhere, and the funds to adequately provision a seagoing operation are simply not in place.
AMY GOODMAN: Antoia Juhasz, a final comment, as we go around, talking about what’s coming out of this decision that a judge still has to sign off on, this settlement?
ANTONIA JUHASZ: Absolutely. And I think that one of the things that’s key—and I agree with Greg—is that these numbers that ultimately come out of this disaster need to be, I think, for BP, at least about $60 billion total. Otherwise, we’re going to continue with a process that analysts are saying right now for BP, the way the settlement is moving is that this could be great for BP. What it will do is price out smaller companies from the deep water who can’t afford to deal with what are expected to be even more disasters, because they don’t really know how to do deepwater drilling, but the big guys that can afford the settlements will get to take over deep water. And that means we’re pushing deep water into the hands of the BPs, the Shells, the Exxons, the companies we don’t trust anyway. So, as we move forward with trial and the rest of this trial unfolds, it’s critical that there’s public pressure and public attention so that BP truly has to pay, we make sure this never happens again, and all the people and all the places of the Gulf have the opportunity for restoration, which right now isn’t happening.